Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

Stem cell breakthrough
avoids embryo problem

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Scientists have taken another significant step away from using embryos in stem cell research as a new and safer alternative is discovered.

A team of scientists from America and Germany has found a way of treating adult brain cells with drugs to make them behave like embryonic stem cells.

They believe this will help them develop treatments for various medical conditions without destroying human embryos or using animal-human embryos.

Previously, scientists had been able to make skin cells behave like embryonic stem cells. But there were safety concerns because they could only do it by using genes which were linked to cancer.

This new breakthrough overcomes that problem and takes scientists a step nearer an ethical method of stem cell research.

One of the scientists involved in the breakthrough, Dr Sheng Ding, said: "This shows that we can make cell reprogramming technology much more practical than it has been.

"These advances will bring us closer to the day when we can use these powerful cells to make any kind of human tissue that we need to help patients."

Critics of the Government's recent embryology Bill say this development shows there is no need for the controversial moves to allow the creation of animal-human embryos for research.

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